Scribbles from the winemaker September 2013 – A tale of 2 Sauvignons

Next week marks a pretty special bottling for us here at Catalina Sounds – the inaugural bottling of our Sound of White Sauvignon Blanc. This 2013 single vineyard wine from our Sound of White Vineyard in the Waihopai Valley is an alternative styled Sauvignon Blanc compared to our regular Catalina Sounds wine, which is more in the quintessential Marlborough mould of being a fresh, aromatically pure wine.

The 2013 Sound of White Sauvignon Blanc captures some of our favourite and most interesting parcels of wine from our home vineyard. Principally sourced from our ‘D’ block Sauvignon, the fruit was handpicked and whole bunch pressed, with minimal settling time in tank before transferring the unclarified juice to various large oak formats – from 500L puncheons (some new) to 4000L French oak foudres. A selection of yeasts were chosen to ferment the juice, with a view to enhancing the textural profile of the wine, and it was fermented at warmer temperatures (15-25C) to introduce heat and yeast derived palate richness and interest into the finished product. Post fermentation, the 500L oak puncheons in particular were regularly lees stirred to again develop palate texture and aromatic nuance.

Compare this with our regular 2013 Catalina Sounds Sauvignon Blanc, which is 95% fermented in stainless steel tanks, but does still include an important 5% textural portion of oak fermented and aged wine. The 2013 Catalina Sauvignon is approximately 50% sourced from our home vineyard with the balance supplemented with our favourite contracted grower fruit and resultant parcels of wine. Overall, in similarity with the 2012 version, the wine’s major components come from the Southern Valleys sub region of Marlborough, with the balance from the middle Wairau, Renwick and a small parcel from the upper reaches of the Awatere valley.

The majority of the fruit going into the 2013 Catalina Sounds Sauvignon Blanc was machine picked, with the juice settled to reasonable clarity before undergoing cooler fermentation (12-16C) with selected yeast strains – some to highlight aromatics while other were chosen to introduce subtle textural layers into the wine. Excitingly, we allowed one parcel to ferment naturally. It took a good 60 days to finish fermenting but it was just an amazing parcel of wine – full of intrigue. If I look back at my tasting notes for this parcel, I wrote “Beautiful, complex nose. Palate rich and soft, yet tight in lean.” It sounds completely contradictory but does capture the spectrum of sensations I experienced – a complete wine in itself. Needless to say, we were very impressed with the results and will certainly look to do more of the same next year. All parcels of wine were allowed to sit on heavy yeast lees, unsulphured, for 6-8 weeks post fermentation to allow aromatic evolution.

As one would expect, the two different wines in the glass – Sound of White and Catalina Sounds – are really quite different. However, there does still exist a common style thread between the two wines. I certainly try and pride myself on wines that are beautifully balanced, with a pure, focussed line on the palate which carries the fruit through to a sustained finish. I also try to avoid a hollowing effect on the palate, preferring a dry style with strong, even palate weight right the length of the wine. I believe both wines carry these traits.
Where they differ is in terms of aroma, flavour and mouthfeel. The Catalina Sounds is quite restrained for a Marlborough style, with an appealing amalgam of citrus, tropical fruits, apple, floral and herbal notes. The palate has a strong citrus fruit core and is dry and cleansing with some mineral notes. It is not a big, heavy wine at only 13% alcohol, which makes it easy to go back for a 2nd and 3rd glass, but it does still possess great palate weight to make it a mouth filling experience.

The Sound of White too is not a big wine, with lovely restraint. Its nose is more complex and dominated by yellow florals and stonefruits with gentle tropical, stoney and herbal undertones and a lick of oak on the nose. This wine is bone dry but the new oak gives a sweet, soft entry to the palate without dominating the fruit and it finishes with a lovely leesy, minerally and textural persistence. I really have fallen in love with this wine and I think it takes Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc to a new level – where character and personality sit side by side with fruit intensity.
I should finish by stating that I really enjoy producing and drinking Sauvignon Blanc and I would defy anyone to stick their head in a fermenting Sauvignon tank and not be blown away by the sheer aromatic beauty of it. Sauvignon Blanc has had its fair share of critics (sometimes valid), often with claims that is a simple, obvious variety and can be easily mass produced. My retort to that is that it is as easy or as complicated as you want it to be, and that applies to any variety, not just Sauvignon Blanc. I can certainly attest to putting as much effort and focus, probably more, into our Sauvignon Blancs as our other varietals and I’m very proud of what we’re producing here in Marlborough.
I hope you get the chance to try both wines in the near future. I know you won’t be disappointed.

Until next time….